Non-directive Child-centered Play Therapy
Non-directive play therapy is based on Rogerian client centered therapy with adults (Rogers 1976), adapted to child therapy and using play rather than verbal exchange as the principal means of communication. It differs from other play interventions and therapies primarily in its non-directive stance: that is the choice of issues and activity in the playroom is determined by the child rather than the adult, within certain basic limits set by the therapist.
A relationship is developed between the child and the therapist in which the child (with the therapist’s help) develops the freedom to choose the feelings he or she wishes to explore and the means through which to do this. Play provides healing for hurt and sadness, breaks down the tension and releases pent-up urges, towards self-expression. The activity of play is one of the most important ways in which children learn that their feelings can be safely expressed without reprisal or rejection from others (Cass 1973).
Play allows children to express strong emotions and to learn to cope with anxieties and conflicts. During play, children feel free to act out inner feelings of fear and anger or loss that may otherwise become overwhelming and could be displayed through their behaviour.
Following are the eight principals of non-directive play therapy:
- The therapist is genuinely interested in the child and develops a warm, caring relationship.
- The therapist experiences unqualified acceptance of the child and does not wish that the child were different in some way.
- The therapist creates a feeling of safety and permissiveness in the relationship so that the child feels free to explore and express self completely.
- The therapist is always sensitive to the child’s feelings and gently reflects those feelings in such a manner that the child develops self-understanding.
- The therapist believes deeply in the child’s capacity to act responsibly, unwaveringly respects the child’s ability to solve personal problems, and allows the child to do so.
- The therapist trusts the child’s inner direction, allows the child to lead in all areas of the relationship and resists any urge to direct the child’s play or conversation.
- The therapist appreciates the gradual nature of the therapeutic process and does not attempt to hurry the process.
- The therapist establishes on those therapeutic limits that help the child accept personal and appropriate relationship responsibility